This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.
On a walk with my daughters the other morning, we passed a group of men drinking coffee together on the front steps of an old Victorian home. After greeting them with a tender smile, one of my girls leaned in quietly and asked, “Is that another men’s recovery home?”
“Yes baby,” I said, “this one’s just like the home across the street from us, where women and men are brave enough to admit they need help and choose to live in community.”
“That’s so brave,” she responded.
Just then we passed a beautiful young woman who had overheard our interactions. She stopped me and thanked me for speaking honorably about people in recovery and teaching my daughters to see them in a positive light. The woman herself was a resident of one of the recovery programs on our street and confessed that she often feels like an unseen character in our neighborhood. We stood together on the sidewalk for a few moments, exchanging gratitude and introducing ourselves as neighbors.
Our simple neighborhood stroll that day had turned into a divine encounter, as if the Spirit of God had been leading us to that moment all along. The guiding presence of God was like a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
In 1984, Amy Grant released the Song “Thy Word,” co-written with Michael W. Smith, taken from Psalm 119:105, “(Thy)Your world is a lamp to my feel and a light to my path.” The song brings back lovely, nostalgic sentiments from my childhood. “Nothing will I fear, as long as you are near. Please be near me to the end!” Amy sang, with her raspy voice and unforgettable anthem-like melody. For years, I’ve found comfort in these words as I trust God to shed light on the path out ahead of me. The metaphor of the lamp and the light has been, for me, about forward movement and helping me find my next step. Yet the further I’ve walked, the more I’ve come to realize that God’s word is more than just a guiding force ahead, or an assistance when we’re lost.
Perhaps the illumination that the psalmist refers to here is an experience of the very presence of the Spirit of Christ with us, awakening us right where we are and leading us deeper in life, rather than further.
My girls and I walked the rest of our way home that day, talking about all the people and places in our neighborhood that we’re prone to overlook. Like the elderly, the alleyways, the houseless community, the hidden structures and signs and the people who look different from us. I told them about Psalm 119:105 and how we had experienced God on our walk, like a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
So here’s an idea, take a listening walk in your neighborhood, maybe with friends or family. In some creative way, write out Psalm 119:105 and carry with with you. As you walk, listen and look for what God might be illuminating along your path. Walk slowly, skip, look in unusual directions, sometimes stand still or lay in the grass and when neighbors pass, look intently into their eyes. Practice an awareness of God’s light shining on the present moment. And as you do, remember that God’s wisdom in the scriptures guides us and guards us and helps us see. God’s breath clears away the dust around our feet so we can know the ground we stand on.
May the word of God, like a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, draw us deeper into the fullness of life.
Christiana Rice is an on-the ground practitioner and visionary voice in the missional movement, serving as a coach and trainer with Thresholds, a community of player-coaches who help people create and nurture neighborhood expressions of church. She is the co-author of To Alter Your World, with Michael Frost, and leads an intentional Christian community in urban San Diego.